KIRUKU: Randy teachers deserve whipping at morning assemblies
This year, the Teachers Service Commission, the body mandated with managing teachers’ affairs in Kenya, has already suspended 22 teachers for engaging in sexual acts with their students. Last year, a whopping 96 teachers were suspended for the same offence.
It is a scenario that is repeated to a greater or lesser extent through East Africa. It takes a great measure of callousness for an instructor who understands the plight of young girls from poor backgrounds to take sexual advantage of them, pushing them and their families deeper into the depths of debilitating poverty.
Teachers have been entrusted with the noble role of moulding, nurturing, guiding and counselling young people. Parents, governments and communities do not expect them to betray this trust, turning into beasts and destroying the future of their charges.
It is commendable what the teacher’s management body has done, but if the culprits are not prosecuted and jailed, justice will not have been served on the innocent girls.
It is disheartening that sexual offenders have been let off the hook many times; it now appears normal to sexually violate minors and get away with it, often with the law giving a slap on the wrist.
The trend by some parents to disregard court processes after violation of their children by teachers, preferring instead to reach out-of-court settlements, is not only absurd but a crime.
Such parents are enticed with cash by the accused teachers so as to circumvent justice. The revelation that indeed some local authorities such as chiefs form part of the syndicate who cover up for accused teachers shows just how complacent our society has become in dealing with sex offenders.
The sad part is that some of the teachers who have been accused are school heads who have been entrusted with a supervisory role over other teachers. Such leaders deserve harsh penalties without leniency.
It is hypocritical for some teachers to claim that the students seduced them into the act. No amount of enticing from a minor can be used as an excuse for one to fall into such immorality.
No trained teacher needs to be told that having carnal knowledge of a minor is immoral, criminal and inhuman. Regional governments and teachers unions must take it upon themselves to advise the teaching fraternity on the codes of conduct as stipulated under national laws.
Governments must put it in no uncertain terms that any teacher caught in the act will not just be shown the door, but will be prosecuted and jailed as well.
Schools in rural areas, marginalized regions and slums are the worst affected, making a bad situation worse and fueling the circle of poverty. Girls from poor backgrounds, whose only hope of rising up the social ladder is in getting a good education, get pregnant and drop out of school, shattering their hopes and dreams.
The related battles against high fertility rates, early pregnancies and child marriages, with all the health complications associated with these, are also lost the moment society blinds itself against sex offenders.
Teachers should be in the forefront in fighting the battle against girl-child school dropout rates, which have been escalating in recent years. This is due to a host of factors such as poverty, illiteracy and the preference by cash-strapped parents to educate boys rather than girls.
Every teacher must take up his or her role of moulding young minds with the seriousness that this deserves. The glory of the teaching profession needs to be restored.
Teachers across the region are frustrated for being some of the most poorly remunerated professionals. The situation is compounded by working under harsh conditions. But even as they push for higher pay and better working conditions, they must remain role models.
The days when teachers were the most respected members of the society are long gone in most of East Africa, thanks in large measure to mistreatment by consecutive ruling elites.
Indecent conduct among teachers can only further erode whatever little respect is left.
It is now upon law enforcers to ensure that justice is meted out. As the region moves towards harmonization of education systems to establish standards of equivalence, issues of proper conduct among teachers must be given utmost weight.
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